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Starting an Embroidery Business

Have you thought about starting an embroidery business or interested in diversifying your business to include embroidery? With a modest investment and a little research, you can be generating a great new revenue stream through embroidery. Embroidery is a huge market, you’ll find embroidered promotional items, company uniforms, sportswear, hats, and more. The goods that are embroidered tend to be more upscale and higher ticket items than screen printing or transferred promotional pieces. There are some skills that are needed as you move into this industry, but don’t let it overwhelm you, you’ll get there before you know it.

Determine Your Market

Yes, we know embroidery is in various markets, but do you have a client base that you can start up and have customers from the beginning. And if you know of some customers, how can you differentiate yourself from your competition? Typically what will differentiate your business is knowledge, quality products, and the ease of doing business with you. Knowledge comes into play when you can make suggestions to your customer on the best fabrics, or design elements that will work for their project. Now starting off, you aren’t going to have all the answers, but make sure you have prepare yourself for the general questions and sign up for as many user-groups in the social media realm that will help you on your way. The quality of products is going to depend on the suppliers you have lined up, your digitizer (which we’ll get into later) and your ability to pay attention to the details. Each time you have a project you are going to learn something new, whether it be getting product lined up, stitch count, varying fabrics, etc. Keep copious notes and keep growing. Ease of doing business is setting up proper communication channels, payment windows, and your sense of urgency in getting back with the customer.

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What Equipment Will You Need?

Budget is always a factor, but you also have to consider do you want this to be a hobby, or do you want to make money? Investing in an embroidery machine that will be able to handle not only what you are doing today, but six months or a year from now should be a factor. You also want to make sure it is sturdy and stable enough to handle a range of production and materials. The ZSK Embroidery Machines engineered and built in Germany have been around for many years and are renown as the industrial machine providing years of reliable service. You also need to look at the serviceability - does the distributor have technicians that can work on the machines or provide parts if something were to go wrong. ZSK does manufacture multiple models but if you are just starting in the business you may want to start with ZSK Sprint 6 a single head machine. If you know going into this you already have a large customer base and you need to be prepared for production then look at the Racer multiple heads to increase your output.  

Where Should I Operate From?

The great thing about starting in embroidery is it doesn’t take a lot of space, electrical requirements, etc. You can operate out of your home or garage, but keep in mind, operating there will not generate foot traffic as commercial space will. Consider renting an area that will be large enough for your equipment with some growth potential and that is in a community that will get you some visibility. Across from a school or large soccer complex may get you some visibility from the passing public.

What Does it Cost?

Start up cost is much less than if you were to get into screen printing or direct-to-garment printing. The main investment is the embroidery equipment and attachments that you will need for the work you plan on doing. Thread, backing, bobbins and other supplies associated with embroidery is minimal. Once you have the initial investment made, or financed the remaining costs are like $.15 - $.20 per job. You can find machines starting in the range of $400, but this isn’t going to give you professional looking final products. If you want to make in the range of $50-$75 an hour using your embroidery machine day after day, then you need to find a machine that will give you hour after hour of professional products. ZSK machines are not necessarily an entry-level machine, because they are industrial, high production machines, but they will last well over 20 years and hold their value much better than a less expensive model. The ZSK Sprint 6 machines starts around $15k and then the multi-head machines go up from there. The Sprint series is equipped with the thinnest free arm in the embroidery industry. What this means it enables you to do jobs that could not be processed before, such as shirt pockets or shoes. The machines also embroider without a “picker” on the front.The advantage here is textiles don’t get caught in the hook and protects the textile from becoming damaged.  

Pricing your jobs

Unlike screen printing your embroidery machine can not print 400 shirts an hour. It is much slower and demands set up time as well as some attention to detail as you are running the job. So price breaks for larger quantities really doesn’t apply since there is virtually the same time required per piece whether it is 10 or 1000 items. Some people tell you to price your jobs based on the number of stitches, but there are additional items that will come into play when running various jobs. Details like will you have to change colors, do you have to stop and cut thread, is the hooping process more difficult and time consuming, or trim a lot of thread at the conclusion. All of these details will add time to the job and you need to be paid for your time! Much of it will have to be based upon your experience as you go, just remember to keep track of your time so you can remain profitable.

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